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China's Myanmar link (The Hindu, 29
Subject: China's Myanmar link (The Hindu, 29/11/96.)
China's Myanmar link
The Hindu, 29/11/96.
ONE AREA OF critical interest to India on which New Delhi
can usefully probe the mind of the visiting Chinese President,
Mr. Jiang Zemin, is Myanmar, or Burma, which shares a
common border with both countries and had in the past proved
a haven for tribal insurgents from the North-East. It has been
one long period of darkness for that country, suffering in the
decade soon after independence under the disastrous policies of
a paranoid dictator who chose to seal the country off and now
under the boot of a junta that refuses to heed the call of the
international community. The State Law and Order Restoration
Council knows that its days are numbered but, like the
proverbial drowning man, clings to the fond hope that its few
benefactors can still save it. One country providing a protective
shield is China. Beijing has, no doubt, been religiously denying
any such strategic connections but it is unthinkable that it
expects nothing at all in return for its heavy economic and
diplomatic investment in the SLORC regime. Such altruism is
alien to present day international politics.
China has given considerable economic and financial assistance
to successive regimes in Myanmar since the middle of the
Eighties. It has built a strategic roadway which has seen a
steady flow of military hardware to help prop up the lately-
beleaguered regime in Yangon. In return -- or for whatever
undramatic consideration -- China has been allowed to have
listening posts on the Great Coco island off the Andamans for
surveillance of the sea route. It is also said to be developing
harbours that can, if the need arises, serve military purposes.
Weaning Myanmar from the Chinese was in fact one of the
basic postulates of the Association of South East Asian Nations'
policy of constructive engagement of the military regime. A
majority of the members of the Asean now acknowledge that
the policy has been a failure. It has only served to increase the
clout of the junta, the military cornering all the benefits of the
investment flow emanating from the Asian grouping and japan.
The China card still seems to have currency.
The military regime displays few signs that the mild pressure
that the United States has been applying is impacting at all. The
U.S. President, Mr. Bill Clinton's advice to the regime to
resume its suspended dialogue with the democracy leader, Ms.
Aung San Suu Kyi, is therefore needed and timely. It contained
no explicit warning but, with Washington coming under
increasing pressure from domestic public opinion to act to end
the repression and human rights violations in Myanmar,
sanctions are the next step. After the regime's shameful display
of intolerance earlier this month when it did everything in its
vast power to neutralise Ms. Suu Kyi. the international
community is left with no option. The European Union, which
from the beginning was opposed to the policy of constructive
engagement, may soon impose sanctions to block exports to the
E.U from Myanmar. By themselves sanctions may not help
restore democracy and end the repression but they can be an
effective tool to twist the junta's arm and hit where it hurts
most, the purse. The military regime, for all its longevity, is
basically unstable and sustains itself through artificial props,
indigenous and imported. India, with its historic connections to
the people of Myanmar and its vital -interest - in peace in the
region close to the North-East, has in the past year been moving
to resume trade and commercial contacts across the border. It
must persuade China to help effect a peaceful change in
Myanmar. Democracy-led political stability in that country will
have a beneficial fallout in the whole region.